Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Adventures In Advertising: The Worst Workaholic I Ever Worked For

My second job after college was at an agency then known as DeGarmo.  It was a creative boutique with wonderful accounts – Rolex, Pitney-Bowes, Life Magazine, ABC Owned Stations and affiliated stations, including WABC-TV New York.  I worked on several of these businesses.  On one of the accounts I worked on, I reported to a man who was demonic in his need for both control and in being a workaholic.   We will call him Don for this post.

He was so much of a workaholic that every year he worked right through the agency’s Christmas party – those days held at the office. He just stayed in his office, doing something, but no one knew what.  He was basically anti-social.

DeGarmo was one of the first agencies to adopt summer Fridays.  When the staff memo came (long before emails) everyone was elated except Don.  A day or two later he asked me to have lunch with him.  He did not go out for lunch without an ulterior motive.  I assumed the lunch had to do with summer Fridays.  I was right.

At the lunch he asked if I would be taking Fridays off.  I was about 23 at the time.  My response was that I would be doing so, provided my work was done or that it could be finished the following Monday.  He pressed me. He asked what would happen if a client needed me urgently.  I told him that I would always let my clients know how to reach me and that if there was anything they anticipated, to let me know so that I could take care of it.

My response was not good enough for him.  He kept pressing.  “Well, suppose the client had a last minute emergency.  You would not be there to handle it.”  I asked him if he planned to take these days off.  He responded by lecturing me that the agency was irresponsible.  I said to him, “If everyone was gone and the client had an emergency that required other people to resolve the issue, it would have to wait until Monday.”

He was furious with me.  And I knew he was the Grinch who stole the summer.

After my lunch I went to the head of account management and told him about the conversation.  He just shook his head and told me not to worry about it and to enjoy my long weekends.

So, every week on Thursday, I told my clients that I would be off the next day.  They all had my home number and there was never a problem other than that they were jealous.  During the summer there was never an urgen phone call from any of my clients.

One Friday night, when I had taken the day off, I was having dinner out.  At 5:00pm I popped into the office just to see if Don was there. I was not disappointed.  There he was all by himself, sitting at his desk reading Ad Age, waiting for the phone to ring. There were one or two other people in the office, but there was no reason for Don to be there.  To this day, I can still see him sitting there waiting for a call that would not come.
No kidding.

At the end of the summer, I asked off the account. No way could I work for him even though I always felt sorry for him.  The worst part is that to this day I realize that he spent his summer Fridays just sitting in his office just waiting.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Six Things You Should Know About Managing People

When I was promoted into a position where I was managing others, I realized that I had no idea as to how to be a good manager.  Over time, I discovered that few people are actually good managers; that’s because no one teaches us this skill – we learn from observing those who have managed us.  And since most of them don’t know how to manage, we continue to make the same mistakes that they did.

Consequently, I thought I would give a quick tutorial of things I have learned and observed over many years in business.

1.    Give those who report to you clear and precise direction
Your subordinates cannot read your mind.  You must let people know what you are thinking.  This means telling people what you expect, how you expect it and when you expect it to be complete.  There is nothing worse than giving an assignment and not verbalizing your expectations.  For instance, if you don’t give a due date, you cannot complain that it is late.

2.    Make yourself available
I have worked for people who have given me an assignment, but when I had a significant question, they were nowhere to be found or couldn’t be bothered. A good manager is available 24/7.  You need to make it known that you can be called at home at night, if it is necessary.

3.    If possible, include those who work for you in meetings where the outcome will affect their ability to complete their assignments.
Meetings have a way of changing situations.  Your subordinates may be wasting valuable time if you are in a meeting and they continue to work on an assignment which has changed.

4.    Be constructive, not critical
Managing well means that you help your people.  If they have done something wrong, don’t yell, don’t belittle, don’t complain, but let them know how they can do the assignment better.  You should be a facilitator not a blocker. And above all, be positive not negative.  Your feedback is critical to the success of the endeavor.

5.    Give your subordinates a full picture of what they are doing
When people know why they are doing something, they will do it better.   If they have a complete picture of how what they are doing fits into the whole, they will function more efficiently.

6.    It’s the results that matter
The first thing that I learned about managing people is that no two people, no matter how well trained they are, will do everything the same way.  You have to let people arrive at your conclusions their own way.  If you have spelled out your expectations, they should complete the assignment as you require.

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Once Laid Off, Never Go Back

My last post was about the difference between being fired and being laid off.  Essentially, there is little real difference – if you are out of work, you are out of work.  However, one of my human resources readers pointed out a legal difference.  If one is fired for cause, there must be significant paperwork to insure that it is legal.  But laying off an employee which can be done for any reason and requires no paperwork. No explanation or back up is required.  That is why everyone now gets laid off.  Laying an employee off leaves a company pretty much immune from lawsuit.  This is especially true in states where employment is “at will”, like New York.  

Occasionally companies lose accounts or have business problems which actually require good people to be let go.   I have heard of a few situations where an executive  has actually been offered their job back by the same company that fired them.  Often these job offers come weeks or months after the initial termination.

My advice is to never go back.  Period.

On occasion, companies can make saying no very difficult.  They might offer back salary.  They will often offer salary increases (rarely retroactive, mostly not).  They apologize and play on a person's ego by getting senior executives to tell how much a person was really loved.  It is great for the ego to go back, but, generally, a poor career decision. 

There are many reasons to turn down an offer to come back.  Most importantly, no matter what the reason given for the layoff, the company did not think enough of the employee at the time, to keep them.  Whatever issue caused an employee to be fired rarely goes away.  

The next time there is a problem, no doubt the employee will again be on the top of the cut list.  I can think of a wonderful account person who was let go three times.  The first time, her account was lost.  She went through this two more times with the same company.  The first time her account was lost, the second time business was down and the third time was because there was a change in management.  Each time, before accepting the offer, she was given advice not to accept.  I understand what happened.  Each time her ego overrode her rational self.  By being asked back she thought that the company really needed and liked her, besides, she was comfortable there.  Taking her job back was a rationale for her ego. 

But, as they say, the devil you know is better than the one you don’t know.  Hiring back an employee is really a matter of convenience for the company.  After all, a returning employee needs very little orientation and can be up and running very quickly. 

 Finally, there are issues within the company which negatively affect employees.  A month or two months or two years away rarely resolves those issues.

Unfortunately, within the business community there is extreme negativity to being on the market frequently, especially for senior executives.  I have actually had clients say, "What, her again?"

Once you are out.  Stay out.  
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